All sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Happy Days
We headed out on Happy Days and spied spouts just outside the Golden Gate Bridge. We approached slowly and found two humpbacks feeding in the middle of the Golden Gate Strait. We reported their activity immediately to the Coast Guard because a large container ship was on its way into the bay.
We waited until the ship had passed us, then moved out to the middle of the strait. The two whales surfaced side by side the entire time we were there, and seemed to go back and forth between Baker Beach and Diablo Cove. One of the whales was slightly smaller and was fluke diving more than the other one - potentially a juvenile.
Generally the whales kept their distance from us, and we gave them lots of space with the large container ships going through the strait. Right as we were about to leave, the smaller humpback surfaced and did three big tail slaps 120 yards from us. We left the area very slowly.
The fog had settled between the trips and it was very windy and cold. With our visibility compromised we were ready to go into an extended search, but we found two spouts right by the bridge in between the two towers. We suspected these two were the same two we had seen feeding together earlier that day.
We floated in neutral inside the bay and within 10 minutes both whales came within 100 yards of us and did fluke dives. We watched them and drifted with the current. The birds hovered above the whales and made it easy to spot where they would surface.
We had been with the whales for about 20 minutes when a small Parker boat with an outboard motor sped into the area very close to the whales. They chased the whales to within 20-30 feet, and then continued to motor alongside them as they dove. They came particularly close to one humpback, who sped up its dive sequence and seemed to be moving in a much faster and jerkier motion than normal.
We attempted to hail the boat on the radio and with hand signals to see if they knew the rules about interacting with whales, but we were ignored. We suspect this boat is a repeat offender and I plan to give the photos and videos in a report to NOAA.
There were abundant harbor porpoises and harbor seals. The weather started to clear up as we slowly left the area, the Parker boat speeding back to port ahead of us.
***If you were on one of these trips and have photos, send them in to firstname.lastname@example.org! I'd love to add them to this post for others to enjoy (with credit to you). Photos of the Parker boat interacting with the whales are especially useful. Thank you!***